Regina Larko features raw and vulnerable conversations in her podcast series, #impact. Tune in to how she started, the challenges she faced, and what making an impact means to her.
When you live in a metropolitan city and a global village, you can’t ignore on-going social issues around the world. And there are a number of ways to make a difference, be it volunteering, donating to charity, or contributing to social enterprises. And then, there’s the power of raising your voice, and getting involved simply by talking about these issues. Check out our conversation with podcaster Regina Larko on how she uses her platform, #impact, to create change and inspire others to get involved.
We chat with Regina Larko, founder of #impact
Tell us about your backstory? Why did you decide to launch #impact? Were you into podcasts before this?
I stumbled over my first podcast when I got an iPhone, sometime in 2012 or so. I was exploring my new device and all the colourful icons and that’s when I saw the purple one that says “Podcast”, I tapped on it and my life was never the same again! I was always drawn to audio – I used to record about six hours of content from my favourite radio show that’s based in Vienna, and I’d listen to it on the go when I’m out and about and that was my connection to home. And then in the Apple podcast app, my favourite podcast was right there, free to access!
When I relocated to Hong Kong for my husband’s job, I started thinking about my career here and what I can do. I explored different opportunities and met many inspiring people along the way. This was when the thought of starting my own podcast kept coming back to me. But there were many instances where the voice in my head said, “I can’t do that! And what if I put in all this effort and no one cares?” I had many self-doubts. After about two years, I mustered the courage to start my own podcast and connect with people to share their stories.
What is your proudest achievement in #impact?
I feel so proud that the listeners who have joined me on my journey have started doing their own part in making an impact. Some listeners would reach out to me and say they volunteered or donated to a cause after listening to the guests I featured on my podcast. One lady came to me and said she listens to my podcasts the day they’re out and, not only does she get involved with the organisations I feature, but she has now started her own podcast! Seeing my vision come true is what gives me energy to keep going.
What’s been the biggest challenge on your journey so far?
The most intimidating part about starting my own podcast – other than putting myself out there – was the technical aspect of it. Now there is better software that make editing audio easier, but when I started it was still rather old-school. I taught myself these techniques via online resources (like YouTube tutorials) and now, I have my own podcast course on audio editing!
The other challenge is balancing and prioritising my content creation with the business development side of things, so as to make sure I am building a sustainable business. Sitting down and strategising is tough. It is hard to switch off but my kids help with that sometimes!
I had many self-doubts on how people would perceive me and my podcasts. But along the way, I’ve learnt that I am not for everyone and my podcast is not for everyone and that is such a relief! There may be people who could even be annoyed that I am always trying to stir change and provide suggestions on how we can create an impact, and that’s okay. I focus on the people who do listen to me and that’s everything for me. I was so worried about making a fool out of myself but it was, again, such a relief to just let go.
What does “making an impact” mean to you? What are you trying to accomplish with the #impact podcast?
Making an impact is about listening to other people’s point of view and trying to understand things from their perspective. Listen with an open mind and an open heart and you will notice that it makes an impact. You may find a certain part of the conversation more relatable and there can even be an “aha!” moment in a podcast – this can be very personal and it can feel very small at that moment but it’s very powerful. And that’s what I try to accomplish with my podcast, it’s to achieve that moment.
How are podcasts different from other mediums in conveying messages?
I definitely think podcasts are more impactful than other mediums. Every medium has its benefits, but audio is the most personal and intimate of all the mediums. You are listening to a human voice that you cannot replicate. You can read between the lines and notice minor changes in a person’s voice and that to me is very impactful and personal.
Say for example, you’re reading a book, there’s a voice in your head and you’re visualising the whole story in your head with your imagination. When it comes to podcasts, small details in the background noise can be picked up and this lets the audience visualise the setting and be part of the story. So yes, podcasts are more than just a voice talking to you.
Another thing is, when you only have the voice as the medium, you overcome any prejudices you may have based on how a person looks. This gives people, especially people from vulnerable groups, an opportunity to be heard and be understood without judgement and connect on a human level.
How much of your podcast is spontaneous?
I was rather strict about my questions during my first season of #impact and I even set the same questions for all my guests. I wanted it to be uniform but it has evolved so much since. Sometimes if I notice that my guests are struggling with putting themselves out there, I jump in to help and ask them if they’re not comfortable sharing about a certain subject. So now, it’s more spontaneous and I go with the flow.
What’s your secret to successful storytelling?
I can’t give you a formula as I am constantly learning about storytelling. At school, students learn that a good storyline should have an arc; introduction, conflict, and resolution, but anything is good storytelling if you allow yourself to get creative with it. People have different styles and preferences.
The storytelling I’m drawn to is when I can create a safe space where people can share their real voice. The unscripted voice. There is a breath they take and a sigh they make and all of a sudden, their voice breaks. When you manage to do that with your guests and allow them to be who they are, then that’s successful storytelling.
Your podcasts often highlight Hong Kong’s social issues and aim to spread positivity. How do you stay positive even in tough times?
Talking about such topics allows me to connect to my roots and my family. My family is just amazing – they didn’t always have an easy life but they always gave me so much safety and warmth. And as a child, that’s all you need. I have pessimists, too, in my family; the Viennese in particular can be very cynical, but at the same time there’s so much laughter and joy.
Discussing tough topics reminds me of myself as a child and I see myself craving that safety, positivity, and warmth; my podcasts help me preserve that part of myself. I don’t mean to always look at issues from a naive or idealistic point of view but my approach is, if we don’t tackle challenges with the mindset that we can move the needle, why even try? Why even try if we think it’s already a lost cause?
That’s what I refer to as positivity; not thinking the world is a fairytale. If we let negativity drag us down, we can’t make an impact. I am angry that I have more privileges than some and that the world is unjust. But if I just pour out my anger, I’m not sure if people would want to listen to me.
How do you want #impact to grow in the future?
I have already started co-hosting podcasts with people in other cities and I really want that to grow. I want people to bring one story that inspires them and it can be from anywhere in the world. I want to get more voices out there and I want to inspire people to be more confident and launch their own podcasts. When others grow, I grow and #impact grows! It’s a beautiful domino effect!
As for myself, I want to get more organised, courageous, and build on my creativity and confidence to be able to reach my goals. And then one day, #impact will be THE audio platform to go to when it comes to social impact topics.